Creating a Character

I don’t consider myself an “authority” on writing but I do like to give out advice if people need it. I’ve talked at length about my favorite disaster lesbian OC Mint quite a bit, and have seen some friends on Mastodon and elsewhere talk about wanting to make an OC, but not being able to because “they’re not creative enough” or “don’t know what they’d create.”

I’m here to tell you, dear reader, that this is simply untrue. Inside all of us, right next to those two wolves everyone keeps talking about, is a great original character that is probably cool and/or cute and more than likely extremely gay. Let’s find them!

Oh and this info is useful for any stories you might want to make too. It’s the same thought process I used to make the protagonists for my current novel-in-progress, and I think they’re pretty cool, so hopefully, this advice helps!

Why Would I Make an OC?

A counter-question: why not? It’s 2019, everyone is tired, and we’re trying to find happiness wherever we can. OCs can be that. If you want a more pragmatic answer: creating characters is a good creative exercise. And it’s fun! The point is: you don’t really need a reason. You could make your character and never look at them. Or you could make them, then base your entire online persona around them (hehe, that’s me). Both methods are valid!

Without further ado:

Step 1: Wants, Needs, Feelings

The thing that separates a character with depth from one that’s flat and kind of uninteresting is how you describe who they are. I see a lot of character creation sheets on tumblr and twitter that ask a million questions about their physical characteristics and their likes and dislikes – these are, in my humble opinion, not very helpful at the beginning of creation. I think it’s better when first establishing a character to dig a little deeper. Personality extends beyond an OC’s favorite ice-cream, or even how they blush when they’re embarrassed.

Instead, ask yourself questions like the following:

  1. What does the character want? What do they need? Love? Power? Wealth?
  2. Why do they want the things listed above?
  3. How do they get the things listed above, if they do get them?

You want to start with these sorts of questions because they’re the center that your character revolves around. Everything they do or say should generally be in service of these wants and needs, and informs all the stuff we’ll be talking about below.

This can extend to likes and dislikes as well! Consider:

Bad: Mint hates going to the doctor.

Good: Mint can’t get a shot without Queen there to hold her hand.

See the difference? The former is fine – it’s a statement that adds to Mint’s character. But the latter adds another layer: it shows Mint’s dislike for doctors’ offices, as well as one of the ways she relies on her girlfriend for support. It’s an easy way to add more depth to the character you want to make.

Then there’s feelings. Describe how your character feels about other people. How they feel about the place they’re in in life, and their physical location. Are they content with who they are? Are they anxious to leave the spot they’re in now? These sorts of questions give your characters even more depth, and help you understand who they are better, as well as how they might react to certain situations.

Step 2: Fashionista, How do you Look

You might think it counterintuitive that a visual design comes as the second step, but it really isn’t. When you establish your character’s wants and needs, you can have an easier time describing how they look and act. For Coretta, the protagonist of my novel, I first described her wants, needs, and feelings:

  • To succeed in school so she can support her mom
  • To leave the town she’s in
  • Dismissive of the students around her
  • Demanding of morality and justice

The above informs a lot about Coretta: how she dresses, her posture, how much she takes care of/cares about her physical appearance. Combine this with inherent traits (race, age, how gay they are, etc.) and you’re well on your way to an interesting character!

Coretta is Black, 5’9”, and has curly hair. She tends to wear loose-fitting clothes like sweatshirts, sweatpants, and hoodies, as they let her move freely and keep her anxiety in check by letting her relax. She has green eyes, a large nose, and is broad chested in her build. She tends to slouch, unless she’s angry, in which case she uses her full height to tower over her peers.

If you’re just looking to make a cool looking character or in general need a visual design, you can also use a visual creator! There are a lot of dress-up-esque apps on your phone and online that can help with this. My favorite is Charat, which is where Mint was created! You could also commission an artist to draw the character for you if you don’t have any artistic ability – I have never done this before in my entire life.

Mint’s Original Design

Step 3: Top or Bottom?

It’s important.

What Next?

To be honest, the stuff above is most important in the process of creating a character, so you’re pretty much done! After that it becomes a question of what you’re going to do with them, which is what stops a lot of people from creating characters. There are a couple of things you could do next:

Make another one! Why stop there? Make a second character! Are they related to the first one you made? Do they like each other? What sort of shenanigans do they get up to? Expand your little OC world.

Pair them with a friend! This can be super fun! I have Mint, while my friend has Queen. We spend a lot of time back and forth describing what sort of stuff the two get up to, and sometimes my friend even makes art of the two! (she can draw, I…cannot, lmao) Having another person to get creative with can be rewarding, plus it offsets some of the creative burden from you!

Make a story! It can be short or long, drawn or written…hell, you could even make it a micro-blog or something like that! I’ve written fics of Mint and Queen after fleshing out her backstory, and it’s been a lot of a fun, and a good break between my other projects.

Nothing! This is just as valid a response as the above. I mean, if you’ve gotten this far in the creation process, I’d assume you’re invested enough to do one of the above things, but you don’t have to be. It’s a hobby like anything else!

Anyways that’s it from me! Hopefully this helps if you’ve been wanting to get into character-creation, whether you’re trying to make an original character for a creative project, or a Mint-type OC, who exists only to be cute.

Okay, bye!

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